< Today the EP has watered down a Commission’s proposal to address the issue of noise emitted by cars, vans, trucks and buses. The current vehicle noise standards date from 1995. Seventeen years on, the number of cars populating Europe’s streets and roads has dramatically gone up to reach more than 250 million and is expected to increase further (3). There is no way around it - the 1995 standards need to be urgently upgraded towards stringent standards with more effective noise reductions.

People’s health and well-being are closely determined by the quality of the environment, and noise levels are a good indicator of its liveability. Over the last few decades, vehicle noise has steadily impacted on the daily life of millions of people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise can cause hearing damage, cardiovascular disease, learning impairment in children and sleep disturbance. (4)

Almost half of the people living in Europe are regularly exposed to traffic noise levels that put their health at risk. One in five is negatively impacted by vehicle noise at night. Traffic noise is the most harmful environmental problem after air pollution in the European Union. (5)

After decades of traffic noise disturbing people’s life to worrying levels, there is little uncertainty that, for the overall well-being of a society, the monetary benefits of quieter traffic by far outweigh the costs of developing quieter vehicles. (6)

“Today, the European Parliament has demonstrated a depressing lack of commitment when it comes to tackle the noise pollution that disturbs the life of millions in different, in many cases dramatic, degrees,“ said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of the European Public health Alliance (EPHA). “At least one million healthy life years are lost every year from traffic-related noise in the western part of Europe (7). Today could have been the beginning of the end of Europe’s policymakers’ shameful inaction on noise pollution. Instead, corporative interests seem to have prevailed,“ Ms Kosińska went on to say.

“The European Parliament voted today to put the interests of noisy car makers ahead of their constituencies’ health, even though we have solid evidence on how current noise levels in Europe harm our health and our healthcare budgets. EU governments still have a chance to improve this draft law before its final adoption. We are calling on them to turn down the volume on noise in Europe’s cities and tune into the positive health benefits of stricter noise limits,” said Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

— end—

- Notes to editors

(1) The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) is a change agent - a dynamic member-led organisation made up of public health NGOs, patient groups, health professionals, and disease groups working together to improve health and strengthen the voice of public health in Europe. EPHA is a member of, among others, the Social Platform, the European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), and the EU Civil Society Contact Group.

(2) The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union. We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life.

(3) Vehicles in use, The European Automobile Manufacturer Association .

(4) Burden of disease from environmental noise. Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, The World Health Organisation (WHO)

(5) Burden of disease from environmental noise. Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, The World Health Organisation (WHO)

(6) Expert support for stricter vehicle noise emissions standards.

(7) Burden of disease from environmental noise. Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe, The World Health Organisation (WHO)

- Contact information

  • The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA). Javier Delgado Rivera, javier@epha.org - +32(0) 2 230 3076, www.epha.org
  • The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) Anne Stauffer, anne@env-health.org - +32 2 234 36 43
Last modified on February 15 2013.